Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) recognises the high-level competition in the Vuelta a España, starting tomorrow in Málaga, but aims for a good result to punctuate a poor season.
"To say there was nothing wrong is pushing it because at the Giro d'Italia, I was not very well," Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I paid for that. But there are still two more important months.
"I hope for a good result in the Vuelta a España. I rode the Tour de Wallonie, the Tour of Poland, and I was always at the front where I wanted to be. I did some good work. For sure, though, the level is high here."
The competition may not include Team Sky's Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas, who are racing the Tour of Britain after successful grand tour campaigns, but the start list still contains several star names alongside 2015 winner Aru.
The roll-call of general classification hopefuls includes 2010 champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Movistar's Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, both past winners, Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac).
"Valverde," Aru responded after taking a long pause to think about who he felt was the race favourite. Asked about a possible surprise winner, he said, "Mikel Kwiatkowski, given how he is going. In Poland, he was strong. He can race for the classification."
Sardinian Fabio Aru skipped the Tour de France after abandoning the Giro d'Italia "completely empty" in stage 19. The Italian champion began the Giro in May as a favourite but never showed the form that had won him the 2010 Vuelta or that allowed him to win a stage and wear the yellow jersey in the 2017 Tour.
"Throughout the spring, I never felt good," Aru said in June. "I have always pushed to get into form, and that led me to overdo it."
After the Giro, Aru underwent several exams. He said that he is not gluten intolerant, but his body struggles to absorb pasta and carbohydrates well. He limits their intake and avoids dairy products.
"There are not crossroads in life," said Aru in Málaga yesterday. "Look at Thomas, no one would have said that he was going got win the Tour... Not every season is the same, life is like that.
"For sure, who wouldn't want to always win? I'd like to break everyone, but we are talking about sport, where there is high and low moments."
Quizzed as to whether he felt any pressure to obtain a result in Spain, he said: "No, I'm calm. Logically, it's a very important race, but it's not the last big one of the season."
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